The GNU General Public License, which is the most widely used free-software license and is used to license the open-source Linux kernel, is set for its first revision in 13 years. Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux operating system, last week weighed in on the upcoming challenges facing GPL Version 3 in an e-mail interview with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli.
There are reports you have had problems with the GPL and, at one point, were looking at another license for Linux. Is this correct?
I dont think the GPL is perfect, and one of my issues has been how verbose it is. Another is just the politics involved, which I havent always enjoyed. For example, for another small project, I use the Open Source License (OSL), which is more to the point and not as political, but [it] has otherwise similar approaches as the GPL. But, hey, nothing is ever perfect. So while I may have some niggling concerns with the GPL, they are in the details, and in the end, I actually think that the GPL simply is the best license for the kernel.
Eben Moglen [general counsel for the Free Software Foundation] says the priorities for GPL Version 3 should be intellectual property licensing and patent issues, network software issues, trusted computing concerns, and international copyright law. Are these your priority issues as well?
Im a big-picture thinker when it comes to licenses, which really means that in the end, I dont care as much about the actual details as Eben [Moglen] does. So, no. My concerns about a GPL [Version] 3 arent the same as his. My biggest concern is that licenses are something … personal to developers, and even trivial modifications to the GPL will cause endless debates, and that can easily derail any attempts to improve it. In the end, while I certainly dont tend to agree with the FSF on all the politics, I think the fact that the FSF does control the license and [FSF founder] Richard Stallman has a lot of respect in the community means that a new license is possible.
Moglen says the FSF is committed to open discussions about changes to the GPL. Do you think this is the way to go?
In the sense that its going to waste a ton of time, no. But in the sense that anything else would be a total disaster and much, much worse, then a huge resounding yes. I dont think the FSF can afford anything but a very open discussion on the issues.